Step 1 for Learning Spanish Online: Determine Your Objectives
The first thing you should do is to determine what exactly it is that you want out of this:
|are you going for complete native fluency (you want to be able to speak Spanish with the same skill as a native speaker), do you want to be able to basically communicate and handle simple day-to-day things such as errands and basic transactions, do you just want to be able to say a few greetings and phrases so that when you go there on vacation for a few days or weeks you’ll be able to at least greet people in their own language and won’t come across as an ignorant gringo–what exactly??|
Next, what is your approximate time frame for accomplishing your goal? Do you have only a few days or weeks before you go in-country or meet your Spanish-speaking lovers relatives? Or, is this a long-term goal (as it is for me) where you’re trying to attain native fluency or something close to it, perhaps because you’re intent on actually moving to and living in a Spanish-speaking country (this is my current predicament–I want to move around and live in different countries in Latin America, specifically Colombia and Argentina right now)?
Step 2 to Learning Spanish Online: Choose a Good Home Study Course
This is going to be the main tool youâ€™ll be using to teach yourself Spanish, and frankly thereâ€™s just no way youâ€™re going to be able to do this on your own, especially if you have a very limited amount of time, without spending any money, so choose wisely and just do it. Personally, for someone who has a very limited amount of time I think Synergy Spanish (click here for their site) is the best choice plus it’s only $49 which fits my budget nicely (click here to see my review of it) because all they do is take 138 of the most commonly spoken words, show you how to combine them effectively over 68 audio lessons (only 10 minutes each) and you end up being able to communicate very effectively at a basic level where you can handle most day-to-day conversations and interactions. It only takes maybe 1-2 weeks to complete, so itâ€™s great for those in a rush.
Thereâ€™s lots of other programs out there, though, many of which will teach you much more Spanish, but the point is that theyâ€™re going to take several months to do so, so it just depends on your time frame. If youâ€™ve got a couple months, then Iâ€™d probably recommend Learning Spanish Like Crazy, and if youâ€™re going for fluency and have maybe a year or so to work on it, then Iâ€™d say Platiquemos. It all just depends.
Step 3 to Learning Spanish Online: Online Dictionaries, Thesauruses, and Translators
In the process of learning Spanish, you’re going to need Spanish Dictionaries, Thesauruses, and especially Translators. I personally use Wordreference.com (click here to go there) as my Spanish Dictionary and Thesaurus, and Babelfish and these guys for my translation needs.
It probably wouldn’t hurt to get a paper Dictionary, and for that it doesn’t really matter which one you get, I use and like Merriam-Webster’s Spanish-English Dictionary, it’s a little paperback dictionary but it’s very unlikely that it won’t have a word you’re looking for, AND a huge plus for me is that it focuses on Latin American Spanish specifically. Also, the one book you really can’t do without, that’s frankly more useful to me than a dictionary, is: 501 Spanish Verbs: with CD-ROM (Barron’s Foreign Language Guides)
Step 4 to Learning Spanish Online: Learn a New Word EVERY Day, Make It a Habit!
One really great way to work on your Spanish vocabulary that will REALLY add up over time is to learn at least ONE new Spanish word per day (I do 3, but you can set this up however you want). I have added a little widget to my iGoogle homepage that displays 3 new Spanish words every single day–if you use iGoogle you can get it here: Spanish Word a Day Widget (works in iGoogle OR your RSS reader). You can also have a new Spanish word emailed to you each day, which is nice because if you’re in the habit of reading email each day you can’t help but learn some new Spanish every day even if you don’t get around to doing anything else with Spanish, at least you’ve done something, sign up for this here: Spanish Word a Day.
Step 5 to Learning Spanish Online: Make Use of Other Resources
If you want to look up Spanish slang, there’s actually very few places that I’ve found that are really any good except one, and it’s really not what you’d expect: I have found that, by FAR, Urban Dictionary has more Spanish slang/curse words in it and they’re more accurately defined than anywhere else, no kidding! Also, there’s a bunch of different places to watch Spanish TV online and this site has got a list of a whole bunch of different websites that have streaming video/audio for TV and radio stations from pretty much every single Spanish-speaking country: Spanish Internet Television.
Extra Tip–This Will REALLY Make or Break Your Spanish: TALK TO NATIVE SPEAKERS!!
I HIGHLY recommend you start conversing with native Spanish speakers as soon as possible, no matter how much of a beginner you are. If there’s anyone in your area who might be willing to help you, go for it. If you have any friends who are native Spanish speakers, go for–just sit down and shoot the shit with them, nothing formal, just normal day-to-day conversation–I promise you that you will learn more faster from this than anything else, just do it! A GREAT way to do this is to make friends with people living in Spanish speaking countries who need help with their English and who you can correspond with through free VOIP telephone programs like Skype plus IM (chat) and email–there’s actually a specific site set up to help people like this get together, check it out here: Friends Abroad.
Additional Reading and Further Resources:
Recommended Online Course
Read our Review of Learning Spanish Like Crazy.